In Defense of State Neutrality
Wibren van der Burg
Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam; Queen Mary University of London, School of Law
Frans W.A. Brom
August 28, 2009
ANGEWANDTE ETHIK IN DER PLURALISTISCHEN GESELLSCHAFT, Freiburg, K.P. Rippe, Hrsg., CH: Freiburger Universitätsverlag
Most discussions of neutrality focus on the liberal tradition as it has developed in the USA. In this article we defend an approach that finds its inspiration in the Dutch tradition. In one respect, our theory of neutrality is more restricted than the American liberal positions. Three categories of the good may be distinguished: goods, the good life, and the good society. In a liberal political theory the state cannot be neutral regarding conceptions of goods or regarding conceptions of the good society, but it should be neutral regarding conceptions of the good life. This form of neutrality is, however, only a derivative prima facie norm. In a second respect, our theory of neutrality is broader than the usual liberal positions. Neutrality may be seen as a standard not only for the input of the procedure, but for all aspects of the political process. We illustrate our approach with an analysis of the German discussion on crucifixes in classrooms.
This is the English version of the text which was originally published in German.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: neutrality, liberalism, crucifix, pluralism, Netherlands, conceptions of the good, legal moralism
Date posted: September 9, 2009 ; Last revised: August 25, 2010